A Public Library Tries LibraryThing
-- Library Journal, 05/22/2007
LibraryThing developer Tim Spalding may have warned in LJ four months ago that public libraries were more scared of user-contributed data than academic ones, but he’s found a taker in the Danbury Public Library (DPL), CT. The library has signed up with the consumer-oriented, collaborative book cataloging web site, which recently began offering services to libraries. So if you look for Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the tag cloud suggests not just "economics" and "sociology" but also "crime" and "abortion," two lesser themes.
About two dozen libraries and consortia have expressed interest, according to LibraryThing’s Thingology blog; DPL is the first to go public, beta testing the service. It went live May 13, and initial promotional efforts are under way, DPL coordinator of library automation Kate Sheehan said. DPL’s tags are "keywords and labels used by regular people to categorize books," explains DPL in its catalog. Patrons can’t add their own tags at the moment, said Sheehan; it would require more work with the library’s automation product from Innovative Interfaces, Inc., and DPL users couldn’t generate the number of tags needed for effective use.
DPL tags exist for whichever ISBNs match between DPL and the LibraryThing, which offers some 17 million tags, created by its users. The vendor also offers a title suggester, or a "people who read this often read this as well" function. LibraryThing pricing, according to the Thingology blog, is a formula "tied to the number of ISBNs that LibraryThing could potentially enhance," multiplied by total collection or circulation figures. That way consortia and branch systems will pay more than a single library but not for every copy. DPL’s June newsletter, which is mailed to supporters and also available at service desks, will promote the new service. The DPL catalog cautions that "because people are different, you will occasionally run across a tag that’s irrelevant, wrong, or just plain strange." Sheehan, however, "is really looking forward to seeing how our patrons respond."